Reviewed: January 2004
Released: 1983, Iron Glory
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Wichita, Kansas is not exactly the location one would expect to find one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, but that is precisely where twenty years ago, a little band called Manilla Road dropped the atomic bomb of epic metal, CRYSTAL LOGIC.
After discovering Manilla Road just this past year, I am left wondering how such an excellent band had remained unknown to me for so long. Sitting somewhere between NWOBHM, doom, and USPM, Manilla Road’s sound is one of the most unique in all of metal, and even more so if one considers that this album was released in 1983. The first fulls song on the album is my absolute favourite Manilla Road song (and maybe one of my favourite songs ever), “Necropolis.” This one is the fastest song on the whole album with a very NWOBHM flair to it. Everything about this song is perfect, from the chugging rhythm section (which has some fucking great tone!) to the very melodic main lead. And who can forget Mark Shelton’s unique voice? His somewhat nasal tone manages to belt out some powerful, clean tones that just screams EPIC! The first time I listened to CRYSTAL LOGIC, it took me 5 times through “Necropolis” before I was ready to move on; this song is that damn good. “Crystal Logic” is somewhat similar in style, but the guitars are much heavier on this track. The opening guitar wail is unforgettable, as is the excellent opening riff. About halfway through the song, the band’s doomy side starts to creep in, a prelude of songs to come. Next up is “Feeling Free Again.” Reviled by the band as much as by myself, this one is an attempt at a radio-friendly hit. Pop garbage, and unworthy of the name Manilla Road. I’ll forgive this transgression as the rest of the album is so awesome. “The Riddle Master” is a doom-ish offering with a very epic feel, even though it does not even reach the five-minute mark. I don’t care much for the chorus, though. “The Ram” is another great song, which is followed up by “The Veils of Negative Existence,” a slow doom track with a guitar tone that reminds me of the best Cirith Ungol ever offered up. Closing out the album proper is “Dreams of Eschaton” which, along with the epilogue, make up over twelve minutes of Manilla Masterpiece. The song starts off very softly as a ballad, but quickly builds after about 2 minutes into some of the best metal on the album. Mark Shelton is in rare form on this song, his vocal delivery unleashing raw power. The music runs throughout the entire spectrum of Manilla Road’s songs, rising and falling in speed and heaviness until a piano outro takes us through the epilogue. As a bonus to the album is “Flaming Metal System,” which some dumbass at the record label inserted right in between “Necropolis” and “Crystal Logic.” Thanks to the magic of mp3s, I have relegated this song to proper bonus track status in my playlist. It’s nowhere near a bad song, but the production is rather poor, and it sounds almost as if it were a demo version.
Are you still reading this Manilla Road worship? Bottom line is that you absolutely NEED this album if you are ANY sort of metalhead. Manilla Road’s CRYSTAL LOGIC is the album that first earned the band a spot among other legendary bands like Cirith Ungol, Candlemass, Manowar, and Virgin Steele that were instrumental in shaping the true metal bands of today such as Twisted Tower Dire, Lord Weird Slough Feg, Doomsword, Skullview, and Cauldron Born.
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